Friday, May 11, 2012

San Diego Zoo @ 300mm!

Snow Leopard at the San Diego Zoo
Going to the San Diego zoo causes 2 big problems for a photographer:  what animals to focus on, what lenses to bring. Of course easy answer is to see "all" of the animals and take "all" of your equipment so that you can be ready for any situation. However that is very impractical in my situation.

I was traveling with my family. This included my son, who is in a wheelchair.  He becomes tired and need some pushing every now and then. There are some enormously steep hills in the San Diego zoo which would be extremely dangerous without some help. Therefore I needed to have enough free hands to help with him. Plus we wanted to have fun as a family. That was the primary goal.

Lens choice:  one could make a case for simply taking an all-purpose lens. Something that will zoom out to wide angles as well as work for close-ups. The most practical lens that Canon makes for this is the 24-105mm f/4 L.  I have this and use it often but this lens does not allow really good close ups. The best for this situation is the super telephoto 300mm f/2.8 IS L.  This thick and heavy lens is spectacular at what it does:  bringing the action in close with unparalleled sharpness and speed.  After much internal debate I decided to take this and only this lens.  Walking around with this by itself is not necessarily too heavy. Sometimes it does attract unwanted attention. While I was at the polar bear exhibit taking some pictures a woman exclaimed "Holy s***, do you see that guy's camera?"  I received a few other comments throughout the day but most of the time people were more interested in the animals. Despite its weight and size, I never seem to be disappointed in the results when I use this lens. I was hoping for the same on this excursion.

I was very pleased with the results. The extremely large lens allowed me to shoot through some of the cages, wires and glass barriers.  Some of the properties of this lens allowed to really focus on the animal itself and in the cage is rendered out of focus in such a way that it looks like there is no barrier at all between me and the wildlife. The portrait of the snow leopard above is an example of this. I was shooting right through the wire cage but the cage does not appear to affect image quality at all.

Everybody had a good time and the photography turned out as well.  Success!  Please see my Animal Gallery for other photos from this outing.
Silverback Gorilla, photographed through plexiglass at San Diego Zoo




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